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Birkman is highly adaptable, and if your organization or clients are already using Birkman, you have a great tool to leverage during this stressful time to refocus teams on their priorities and collaborating. Here are some ideas on leveraging Birkman on the topics most relevant to remote teams right now:

Understand each other's Stress Behavior and how not to take it personally

Personal story time: I think I’ve cried in the workplace maybe four times in my career over the course of ten years, and three of those four instances were in private. Until this week.

This past Monday, I reacted in an overly emotional way in front of a leader at our company when I received some feedback. I was WAY overacting to the situation, but afterwards, I felt immensely better. I realized I just needed an emotional release from the anxiety and stress of COVID-19 and the impact it was already having personally and professionally. I unfortunately released these emotions at an inopportune time, but I recognized it for what it was and was able to get past it quickly due to self-awareness of my stress reactions based on Birkman (and talk it through with our leader).

How I felt this past Monday processing the social and economic impact of COVID-19... and then taking out that stress at the worst possible time.

Now is a great time to have a workshop highlighting Needs, Stress, and Interests. Why these three topics?

  • An awareness of Stress Behavior for yourself and your team members can help you learn the “warning signs” so you can be mindful in the moment of your escalating actions.
  • An awareness of Needs and expectations helps you understand what situationally is triggering the stress reaction in yourself or others.
  • An awareness of Interests is deceptively powerful—Interests are tasks that you find motivating, and they can help you recharge in times of stress. (For example, I have a high Literary Interest, channeling my energy into this blog has been both productive and calming to me this week.)

What's the best way to respond to crisis? Leveraging emotions or focusing on the practical next steps?

Trick question: depending on the situation and people involved, either can be the right response.

If you have a practical approach and don't typically lead with emotion, you likely focus on fixing problems, which is a helpful strength when approaching tactical issues. You may also provide valuable objective decision making and handle the facts and tasks as your company determines its next steps for responding to COVID-19. This helps keep business moving toward the next action in sight. 

If you do tend to involve emotions when interacting with others, you're likely going to focus more on the feelings involved in this crisis,  helping people positively respond and feel encouraged in this stressful time. You will likely focus more on the people-impact of COVID-19—making sure that the messaging and actions of your company reflect its care for employees and customers. This helps protect your brand, reputation, and employee engagement.

I often use this example scenario to illustrate this point: 

  • Imagine you're hiking with a group of people and injure yourself to where you can't hike back
  • Some people will intuitively want to get back to the trail head and get you help
  • Others will want to stay with you to make sure you're okay
  • Ideally, you want both to happen:
    • If you don't have someone solve the practical problem, you won't move forward and the problems will persist and likely worsen.
    • If you don't have someone care for emotional needs, you may move forward with disastrous impacts to relationships.

Also look at the emotional Needs of your employees—are they craving warmth and caring environment right now in response to the stress of COVID-19? Or are they just wanting a practical path forward? Identify how everyone can support each other and identify any outliers that need additional support.

Who do we need to navigate chaos? Change-agents or natural stabilizers ?

During a VUCA situation, such as the one we are facing with COVID-19, change is inevitable. Understanding who on your team will naturally be a change agent and who will naturally help stabilize the business can provide valuable transparency for teams to understand how to support each other.

How do you effectively respond in times of chaos?

  1. Natural Change Agents = High Restlessness (Responsive) + Low Insistence (Flexible) 
  2. Natural Stabilizers = Low Restlessness (Focused) + High Insistence (Insistent) 

What do you expect in these situations?

  1. A Changing Environment = High Restlessness (Alternating Tasks) + Low Insistence (A Flexible Plan) 
  2. A Stable Environment = Low Restlessness (Few Interruptions) + High Insistence (A Definite Plan) 

It is important to know when it’s time to pivot, as well as when to create stability amidst chaos, and typically we need a balance between the two. If behaviorally your team leans strongly one way or another, you may need to seek other sources of stability or flexibility to keep the team grounded and functional during this time.

Identify types of communication styles

Just like with the Component Combination I outlined above for Change Orientation, there’s Communication Style, another combination can be particularly helpful as people adapt to working from home:

How do you engage in the virtual communications?

  1. Encourages and Leads Discussions = High Social Energy (Social) + High Assertiveness (Assertive)  
  2. Acts as a Source of Dissent = Low Social Energy (Independent) + High Assertiveness (Assertive) 
  3. Pleasantly and Inclusively Communicates = High Social Energy (Social) + Low Assertiveness (Suggesting) 
  4. Naturally Listens and Cooperates = Low Social Energy (Independent) + Low Assertiveness (Suggesting) 

As teams adapt to primarily communicating via video conferencing and messaging apps instead of in-person meetings, identifying the voices that may not get heard and inviting them to share opinions is a valuable lesson for everyone on the team to make sure that you’re leveraging the best ideas from the entire group. On the other hand, if you know you are often inclined to speak up, it can be wise to pause before sharing, offering a space for others to chime in to the discussion.

Relevant Birkman Reports that may be helpful during this time:

  • Stress Management
  • Component Combinations
  • Handling Conflict
  • Relational Disrupters
  • Your possible ineffective tactics in meetings
  • Trust
  • Motivating you for best performance

Need Help?

Talk to us! Our account managers are here to support your success—we mean it! It brightens our day when we have the chance to help organizations have "aha" moments using Birkman.

We can talk through our virtual offering of High-Performing Teams or the unique impact of COVID-19 on your organization's talent and discuss the right action plan to provide valuable virtual training to inspire, motivate, and drive emotional intelligence for your employees.

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